words by pablo deferrari
lots of physical evidence and footage suggests that Big Foot still roams the Northwest, and even to this day, the scientific minded will point to numerous unexplainable facts like footprints, hair, and fresh unclassifiable dung and that keeps the legend flourishing. this drops me neatly onto the subject of this 1988 Porsche 928 GTE.
there's been great debate on this car that fellow South African Porsche enthusiast Bruce Joelson claimed to be the only one of its kind made by the wizards in Zuffenhausen...unfortunately, the debate happened six years ago on Rennlist making me the seem as if I were Rip Van Winkle who awoke after a long sleep and stumbled on to this subject I wish to make fresh again.
the fact is, some of you may have never heard of this car, or its story and that's why I'd like to bring it to your attention.
"This is to certify that this Porsche model 928 S4 is the first ever built with the up-rated engine and transmission together with specially selected comfort items. It is given the special designation of Gran Turismo Executive."
the short of it is that this car started out as the very rare 928 CS to which Porsche added a few "niceties;" essentially, it's the UK version of the CS Porsche dubbed the SE, only this car is left hand drive, has Cup 1 wheels which didn't officially appear until 1990 on the 965 (911 Turbo) and then later on the GTS, and sports Kremer ground effects and mirrors...wait, it gets even more interesting.
the 5 liter M28.41 engine, which normally made 316bhp in the S4, is said to produced somewhere around 360+bhp at the crank and 229bhp at the wheels, depending on the altitude, and boasts an incredibly high 12:1 compression ratio propelling this car to a tested 182mph. this engine produced more horsepower on paper than the GTS' 345bhp that came out four years later.
it also claims to have custom made dampers developed specifically for this car by Bilstein, the CS' front and rear sway bars, which are really the same as on the S4, so that's nothing special, and a very trick Rose jointed suspension similar to Heim joints. what this means is that there's infinite adjustability in suspension geometry and there's zero play and zero elasto-kinematics...i.e. no bushings. this is similar to the set-up on the GT3 and the Ferrari Scuderias. not a very comfortable ride, so one hopes that the added "luxuries" make up for the loss of fillings in one's teeth.
according to Joelson, he was just milling around the factory grounds in Zuffenhausen hands in pockets whistling Dixie when he stumbled upon this beast. naturally, he asked the Stuttgart magic elves about it and wanted to buy it on the spot. they politely said no since this was a special one-off prototype and not for sale. after much badgering and pretty-pleases-with-cherries-and-whipped-cream-on-top, they agreed to sell.
I don't know, I kinda-sorta believe this story because Porsche was a very accommodating sort of operation in those days. and small enough that with the right connections, you could pretty much ask for what you wished for as long as you had the ducats.
without getting sidetracked, let me tell you a similar story that further compounds my inclination to believing in this 928's authenticity. nearly a year ago, I got an email regarding an article I wrote from a very nice older gentleman named Orville. we spent about an hour over the phone talking Porsche history and how many times he's gone to the factory to take delivery of whatever new Porsche he was getting at the time.
Orville was spending a few days in Stuttgart since he was taking delivery of his 930 from the factory. it was approaching dinner time, and so he asked one of the directors of the delivery program if he could recommend a place he and his wife could grab a bite. the director suggested a popular joint where the who's who of Porsche dined regularly. off they went.
now the name of the place is in some irretrievable spot somewhere in my head at the moment, but when they got there, he was asking around the place if anyone spoke English. a very distinguished looking woman over at one of the nearby tables overheard Orville and immediately went up to him acknowledging that she in fact spoke English.
they exchanged pleasantries and then asked Orville and his wife to join her and her husband, who wasn't at the table yet. Orville began explaining to the gentlelady that he and his wife spent a good part of the day at the Porsche factory getting a tour and preparing to take delivery of their new 911 Turbo, I think this was around the late 70's or early 80's, I can't really remember.
she then told Orville what a coincidence this was since her husband worked for Porsche. just then, her husband came back to the table and she introduced him to Orville and his wife...wouldn't you know that Dr. Fuhrmann himself? I'm not joking.
Orville had literally hit the jackpot...what were the chances of meeting Mrs. Fuhrmann and then the great one himself! unbelievable.
the short of it is the Dr. Fuhrmann asked Orville if he'd be interested in buying it since he was clearly smitten with Dr. Fuhrmann's whip. I can't tell you exactly how much for because Orville really couldn't remember the exact figure...somewhere just north of 100 large. Orville kindly declined as this was out of his league, but the legend began there.
my bullshit detector didn't go off, maybe it was malfunctioning that day. but I believed Orville. why? because I've read quite a few of these stories written by credible sources that, although they never were fully investigated, you knew they had some fibre of truth to the intricate weave of the tale. Ferrari's reputation for these sorts of clandestine meetings leading to special cars made "off to the books, I can't imagine how Porsche was any different.
take what you will out of this story. the GTE has little written about it, and asking those in the know outside of Porsche is just heresy. that being said, I won't add to the folklore or spin another web based on what I know because it would be pointless to further muddy the waters. the only way to really authenticate any of this is to take a trip to the Porsche archives...and that's on my list.
for now, I'll simply pass along what's already been established with a few corrections.
enthusiast Peter F on rennlist made contact with the owner in January of 2008, here's what he said:
"Peter, the car was built specifically as a test prototype and was never intended for sale or evaluation outside the factory, so as a result no spec sheet was ever produced. We ran it on a dyno many years ago at 6200 feet altitude and got an uncorrected 360bhp; we also know that the altitude is worth a 17% power loss on non-turbo applications. I can tell you with some certainty that the compression is around 12:1 and that the ECU is a totally different map as compared to the S4 and even the CS or SE cars. We have never had the engine apart and are pleased about not having to do so. We also know that the engine was a Speziale assembly and that it was stuffed with all the goodies they and Kremer had developed up to that time; the purpose of having that much horsepower was to further test the higher top speed aerodynamics of the different bodywork with a view to production - but this never happened. Right now it still only has about 52k (kilometers) or 30k miles on the clock from new. I will add a bit to that next week as I will be in SA for a couple months.
The suspension and braking systems are exactly the same as the Club Sport cars.
When we first heard the car at the factory, we knew it was a whole different ballgame. Hence our insistence on acquiring that specific car, even though as VIP customers they offered to build us "one like it" at the time.
The car has seen the other side of an indicated 300kph quite a few times, most recently with a passenger and the aircon inadvertantly still turned on. I have run up against manual GTSes a few times and they are absolutely no threat whatsoever, even in the low and midrange.
I notice that we also have a Wikicars page nowadays, which might be of interest. It is listed at the bottom of the Porsche main page under the subtitle of concept cars."
here's a kink to the rennlist thread about the car:
and the wikicars link:
and lastly some facts about the car with my corrections:
model year : 1988
VIN : WP0ZZZ92ZJS841486
engine number : M28/41 81J 00925
color : Indischrot
color code : L80K
interior : black leather, with red piping and black/red tennis cloth inserts.
M018: Sport steering wheel with elevated hub 30mm
M139: Seat heating system left seat
M298: prepared for unleaded fuel (catalyst manual gearbox)
M326: cassette-radio blaupunkt berlin IQR 88
M383: Sport seat left electrical vertically adjustable
M387: Sport seat right electrical vertically adjustable
M650: Electrical sliding roof